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elements are not used metaphorically either by Shaw or Douglas. The artists use them instead as symbols—symbols that, in the sense proposed by Baudrillard, no longer refer to something being symbolized, but merely back to themselves. Meanings are no longer constituted by symbols alone, but by their proximity to other symbols.
Along these lines, the video works of Aernout Mik and Sam Taylor-Wood also demonstrate the impossibility of using image sequences as signs that refer to something specific. Both employ narrative fragments, or rather narrative bits, which only suggest the possibility of telling a story—a story that must remain a virtual one. The viewer is encouraged to read a causally determined plot, but continually fails to mount the narrative bits into a cohesive whole. Sam Taylor-Wood speaks here of «dysfunctional narration.»
This form of narration, which sets the tone for the media art of the 1980s and 1990s, plays with our longing to decipher codes and create coherence. It pays
tribute to the fact that an iconography equally valid for all societal layers has largely been lost, but that there still remains a collective knowledge of audiovisual storytelling, formed through historic symbols and narrative motifs as well as through stereotypes found in television, at the movie theater and on the Internet. The viewer, his/her gaze, knowledge, expectations— in short, his/her culturally determined sensory conditioning—the procedure he/she uses to constitute meaning and form representations, are the main themes of the media art of the 1980s and 1990s, which works with narrative elements—whether in digital or analogue media. The works are about that which is uncertain (Ahtila, Douglas, Hershman), the surprising (in works by Feingold, especially «The Surprising Spiral,» 1991), intimate dialogue (Runa Islam's «Gaze of Orpheus,» 1998, Hershman's «Room of One's Own,» 1992), about things that are not accessible rationally (Thater, Ahtila, Weinbren), that remain unspoken and that cannot be expressed with words (Bill Seaman's «Passage Sets—One Pulls Pivots at the Tip of the Tongue», 1995).<BR>